Cutaway drawing showing small figures busy operating treadmill level technology inside a head.
The Scottish Word:

Chaft.

Staun bye chiels, I see the spune oan its wye.

Get ready tae pit yer backs intae it eneuch tae strain them tuith bandits.

Mak that fitwhirlie dirl tae clap the chafts richt weel.

Translation:

chaft: chin, jaw, cheeks.

Stand by lads, I see the spoon on its way.

Get ready to put your backs into it enough so as to put a strain on those metal bands that strengthen the teeth.

Make that that treadmill spin ringingly to pound the jaws right well.

tʃaft
The Scottish Word: chaft with its definition and its meaning illustrated and captioned with the word used in context in the Scots language and in English.

Cognitive Bias.

Drawing all the wheels and cogs in that head got me thinking of cognitive bias and how cognitive biases can get you to make an idiot out of yourself without even trying.

These biases are built in and subtly affect your thinking and your view of the world. They are very difficult to counter and even to be aware of. We all have them.

Below are a few of the main ones to watch yourself for – and the first two are particularly tricky for us creatives:

Illusory Superiority.

Illusory superiority is when we think our performance is better than it actually is and think it is superior to anyone else’s. How bad you have this one will determine how much of a narcissist you are. And if you are a narcissist you will definitely think you are too superior to be illusory about it.

If you are a creative you should at least have some unshakeable confidence and belief in yourself and your abilities – without delusion. Good luck.

“…Ability is not a fixed property; there is a huge variability in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failures; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong” Albert Bandura.

PS. Men suffer from illusory superiority more than women as do the children of the wealthy.

To counteract illusory superiority get some honest feedback. Use a friend or colleague as a “devil’s advocate”. Find your misconceptions and disarm them one by one by questioning, analyzing, and simplifying – either self arguing or in a debate. And test, test, test. None of your opinions, or experience, should ever be embraced without good data to back it up.

In projects try to be humble, take time to identify what could go wrong, overestimate the time and cost it will take, and try not to be too caught up in the desired outcome.

If this makes you worried about your over-confidence, odds are pretty good you need more confidence, not less. Use that newfound boldness to try and enlighten those who’s “ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.” David Dunning of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

This is also tricky if you are a creative. Belief in your abilities (along with perseverance, and practice over time) is everything to eventually realise your ambitions. The Dunning Kruger effect is when you confidently think that you’re at the top of your game, competent, creative, and knowledgeable when you are, in fact, at the bottom, ignorant, unaware, and unpracticed. And totally oblivious of it.

With luck you’ll not have stuck at that youthful stage and will have moved on (from that beginner’s bubble) onto ‘Why did nobody tell me that, and this. And That!’ to ‘God I know nothing.’ to ‘Gosh there’s a lot to learn.’ to ‘I’m getting this maybe I should put my fees up.’ to ‘I’m good but every day remains a school day.’.

“One of the most painful things of our time is that those who have certainties are stupid, while those with imagination and understanding are full of doubts and indecision’s.” Bertrand Russell.

The bad news out of all this is that the top 20% experts under-appreciated how good they are. To put this another way, it means that those experts, by default, think that the overconfident among them are actually their equals or even smarter. Which sadly really opens the door for overconfident idiots.

Confirmation Bias.

Confirmation bias is where information that agrees with your opinions grabs your attention, and information that doesn’t agree with you somehow passes you by unremarked and unnoticed. You will bang on about that study that proves your theory on cats and curtains but be oblivious to the eight other independent studies disproving it resoundingly. There are several examples illustrating confirmation bias here on yourdictionary.com

Things you can do. Pause before accepting what the information is conveying. Stop and take a breather before reacting. Is it too good to be true, too conveniently fitting in with your world view. Check that the information source is reliable and has a good track record. Find second opinions. Look for the original sources of the information. Change your viewpoint so that you look at the information in a different way (1 out of 5 hating something is the same as 80% not minding or even liking something). Carefully re-examine and re-read the information to make sure you have properly understood it. Look at what your opponents think of this information.

Most importantly – don’t pass it on if it looks too good to be true. Wait. And check it out first. There’s too much crap out there already.

Bandwagon Bias

Bandwagon bias is falling in with the crowd. If lots of your friends like something your tendency will be to like it as well unless you’re thrawn and contrary and that’s a whole other bias in itself. If you’re a creative you should be looking to see the world differently anyway.

The ad where marketeers are presenting a happy ‘hip-crowd’ loving what they’re selling is aiming at your bandwagon bias.

If you are on social media it’s always a good idea to be in contact with a few people of opposite views to your own. If you stare slack jawed in outrage at some of their posts it helps you get a better perspective on viewing the posts of those you think you agree with. Bandwagon effect creeps up on you. More so if you’re in a ‘bubble’.

“My advice to new artists is to not follow a trend, but to start one. By that, I mean to not be tempted to do what business people might suggest to you, to jump on the bandwagon, but to be strong.” Peter Frampton

Negative Bias

Negative things tend to attract our attention, stick in our memory and influence our decisions more than positives. As demonstrated by marketeers’ common ad tactics – ‘gum bleeding can lead to your teeth falling out and death – our toothpaste will save you’! Also illustrated by the shocking headlines and news stories you see around you. Bad news gets more clicks. We notice the bad – even if the good totally outnumbers it. We freak out about deadly dog attacks but ignore vehicle related deaths, the biggest killer on the planet.

“Exercise, prayer, and meditation are examples of calming rituals. They have been shown to induce a happier mood and provide a positive pathway through life’s daily frustrations.” Chuck Norris.

Things you can do to work against your bias. Be more self aware, monitor your thinking and the feelings they create. Albert Ellis’ ABC technique. Be aware of B your Beliefs that arise, and C their Consequences – then you can work backwards to figure out what activated them, A for Antecedents – the adversity or activating event.

Be bloody minded in finding the silver linings in your experiences, work, and relationships. You can always find one even if at the time it feels pathetic. Feelings are made by thoughts. Thoughts are not reality, thoughts can be changed.

Reality. Get busy in the real world with physical interaction. Churchill worked as a brickie in the grounds of his mansion for that very reason. To see off his ‘Black Dog’.

For artists, begin. Get stuck in to the physical work of creating and it will dispel any over-thinking that was building up and the actions and reactions of doing will lead to an outcome, and often a better outcome, than any you could have forecast.

Build up a library of positive memories. If you find yourself in a happy place, physically or mentally, take the time and effort to pause, live in it, savor it, and store it away for a rainy day. Walking in green spaces for rejuvenation and cogitation is a well worn route through the ages. Even better, look out for chances to create those sort of memories for others.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir

Dog walking in the woods saved me.

Illusory Correlation

Illusory correlation is mistakenly thinking a particular cause and an effect have a mutual relationship. They come about because we tend to overestimate the importance of events we can easily recall and underestimate the importance of events we have trouble recalling. We are incredibly poor at remembering things that have no impact. If we don’t see it, or its a humdrum day to day occurrence we assume it rarely happens.

“A child is bitten by a cat in the neighborhood. The child then determines she hates cats because they all bite.” The child has forgotten all the other cats that didn’t bite. There is a whole list of illusory correlation examples here on yourdictionary.com.

Recently I have been enjoying watching Covid19 armchair ‘experts’ pontificating on cause and effect relationships using graphs and being soundly taken apart in public by professional epidemiologists.

There is a long list of illusory correlations in graphs here on tylervigan’s site. The headline for the evidence in one of his graphs below would be ‘Mind Virus in Imported Norwegian Oil Drive Motorists Under Trains.’ This is the equivalent of what some of the ‘Covid armchair experts’ were doing with graphs of winter flu deaths and Covid deaths.
Graph that shows correlation between Norway crude oil imports and drivers killed by trains in the USA.

The way to try and avoid illusory correlation idiocy is first to be aware that it exists and watch yourself for it. The other is to go look at how the experts (epidemiologists for example) sort out the data and try to understand since we are most likely to make illusory correlations when our understanding of a particular subject area and its circumstances are poor.

Does your experience of the behaviour of a few people of a given nationality inform your opinion of the behaviour of the whole population of that nation? For example ‘every single Scot likes a drink’. How daft is that?

1 thought on “Chaft.

  1. I forgot that ‘cleg’ was Scottish for a horse-fly. I recalling mass confusion in Cambridge when I pronounced that I was bitten by one. Except in Barrhead of course, where a cleg is anything horrible or nasty. My cousin called me a cleg mostly on good days. The rest of the time I was a ‘cleggy basturt’. Lovely turn of phrase that girl.

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